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Heralding Kumar

You ever notice the backdrop during some of President Bush's speeches? The ones that say "Making America Stronger" or "A Reformer With Results?" (And yes, "Mission Accomplished.") The first time you see them, you think they might be a bit heavy-handed, but then … all those thematic messages just morph into the entire news story.

And that's the point.

There's an interesting new book that breaks down the study of presidential communication over the past decade-plus: "Managing the President's Message" by Towson University professor Martha Joynt Kumar. According to today's Washington Post quickie-review:

Kumar, a Towson University professor, got most of the important figures of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies to talk with her about their strategies for spinning journalists -- including Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett and Joshua B. Bolten from this administration. What emerges is a portrait of a rapidly shifting environment in which the White House has had to adapt to keep a quicker pace because of cable news, talk radio and the Internet.

Nothing is left to chance, she writes. Take the backgrounds during President Bush's speeches, which the White House makes sure are plastered with slogans so that the television shot conveys the chosen message even without sound. Bush, she reports, speaks from a special podium called "Falcon," designed so that it does not block the background message in televised close-ups. "Winning the picture is important," Rove told her.

If you're curious or cynical or want to know just how detail-oriented the White House communications people are – there's a reason for everything, it sounds -- then this looks like an illuminating glimpse at the different ways that the White House press office hammers home their points. And the fact that she got some information from the people behind the strategies takes it beyond an academic exercise and could potentially pull back the curtain a tad.
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